Pól Ó Conghaile: One year on, the Wild Atlantic Way has proven its worth
Wild Atlantic Anniversary
A year since its launch, the Wild Atlantic Way could become Ireland's greatest tourism marketing trick, says Pól Ó Conghaile.
So the world's longest-defined coastal touring route is one-year-old.
The signposts and website (wildatlanticway.com) are up and running, the marketing campaign is flying, and coastal communities (with the exception of Waterford, of course) are largely on board.
Everybody loves a winner, and the Wild Atlantic Way has certainly been that. There's no way of knowing how many tourists have come specifically to do the route, but it has coincided with a 9pc rise in overseas visitors last year, a boom in transatlantic traffic, and a blossoming of optimism among Irish tourism businesses.
Cynics may say the Wild Atlantic Way is no more than a marketing wheeze. Well, so what? To me, Fáilte Ireland's €10m capital investment looks like a bargain.
In this week's travel pages, Geoff Hill rides his motorbike from Kinsale to Rossnowlagh, and Frank Coughlan pays a poetic visit to Sligo. We've also run several galleries of Wild Atlantic Way photos online, including the latest - 16 images from Carstein Krieger's Wild Atlantic Way (O'Brien Press).
Would any of that have happened without the 2,500km touring route?
Of course, success is hard act to follow. Fáilte Ireland is developing photo points along the way, but the need for facilities like beach parking, toilets and marinas in certain areas is becoming urgent. It remains to be seen how its follow-up concept - 'Ireland's Ancient East' - will fare, too.
But for now, let's celebrate. And what better way to do that than plan a trip out west this summer?
Armada Hotel, Spanish Point
We're heading into peak staycation season, so book midweek if at all possible to get the best deals at popular hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses on the Wild Atlantic Way. The four-star Armada Hotel in Clare's Spanish Point (pictured, armadahotel.com) has a three-night family break including one evening meal from €199 per adult (kids go free). Galway's Twelve Hotel (thetwelvehotel.ie) has a Lazy Sunday package bundling with B&B and €40 food credit starting at €140 per room. And don't forget camping - pitches start from less than €25 (providing you have a tent).
Dublin's Westbury Hotel
The Wild Atlantic Way isn't he only way to get an authentic taste of Ireland, of course. Dublin's five-star Westbury Hotel (pictured, doylecollection.com) has teamed up with Fabulous Food Trails (fabfoodtrails.ie) to offer an exclusive overnight package bundling one night's luxury accommodation, a three-course dinner for two in Balfes, breakfast in Wilde Restaurant and a foodie tour of Dublin from €430. The package is available on Friday and Saturday nights until September 26. Call 01 646-3311 to book.
NB: All prices subject to availability.